Ara Chocolat Porcelana 70% 91.5/100

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Porcelana or white criollo (different from white nacional) grows south west of Lake Maracaibo in the Venezuelan region of Zulia and is considered to be one of the best varieties of cacao. Porcelana beans grow white rather than the purple and brown hues we traditionally associate with cacao beans due to the absence of the flavonoid anthocyanin, which is responsible for the purple colour. This absence of anthocyanin is responsible for the lack of bitterness in fine white criollo chocolate, which makes it highly desirable in terms of flavour. This lack of anthocyanin and Porcelana’s ancient heritage come at a cost however, with ancient white criollo strains being susceptible to pests and disease, thankfully though Venezuela has never shyed away from growing vulnerable, low yielding, but flavourful cacao strains. With less than a 1000kg of this Porcelana produced every year it makes every Porcelana bar made a rarity, so we’re lucky to have this offering from Ara Chocolat.

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I’ve tried a few bars made from Porcelana cacao and my impressions used to be that there was some soft red fruit with some intense and rich cocoa notes, but more recently I’ve been adjusting to expect a lighter tone and some more delicate and elegant notes, especially where the roast is light. Opening this bar I’m inclined to expect the latter with a lighter milky brown colour and the aroma seems to suggest something between the two, there’s this almost floral cocoa aroma, but its mixed with light red berries.To taste it reminds me of Ara’s trinitario Guasare, just way more balanced and refined, that being said its less ‘chocolatey’ than previous porcelanas I’ve had, definitely headed in a fruitier direction. I feel a bit conflicted about this bar, its unusual, the flavour is good, as is the acidity and the sweetness, but it’s the other experiential attributes of this bar that are the best, the extremely smooth mouthfeel, the length and roundedness of the flavours and the refined balance. Usually really good bars are the other way round, they’re great on flavour, but lacking some refining aspect of production. It’s as if the flavour of this bar has been slightly overshadowed, unfairly, because the flavour is great and the flavours are well developed, but overshadowed all the same by the high quality of its other attributes. This is a great bar for someone for whom real quality doesn’t begin and finish with flavour, for someone who appreciates fine things in whatever form they come in.

Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar, cacao butter

Appearance 8.5/10

Colour: Lighter, milky brown
Texture: Smooth, soft, ganache like
Mould: Ara small 12 square blocks
Snap: Very crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Matte sheen, consistent

Aroma 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Rich almost floral cocoa, light red berries, citrus peel
Quality: Rich, deep

Melt/Mouthfeel 9.5/10

Length: Long
Evenness: Very even
Texture: Very smooth
Quality: Refined, balanced

Acidity 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Notes: Berry, lime
Quality: Bright, uplifting, sharp

Sweetness 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Caramel, ripe berries
Quality: Developed, honest

Flavour 9.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Cocoa, caramel, full fat milk, mixed berries, lime peel, flaked almonds
Quality: Deep, dimensioned, light effervescence

Length 9.5/10

Flavours are long, rounded and consistent after initial development

Finish 9/10

Notes: Berries, lime peel, flaked almond, lime
Quality: Acidity turns to lime peel before a cleanish finish that switches to juicy lime and cocoa lingering a while

Balance 9.5/10

Acidity can be a little sharp in places over the course, but otherwise this bar remains for the majority in soft balance, medium structure provides good base

Overall 9/10

There is depth and dimension to the flavour here, flavours and acidity have been developed while maintaining balance and refinement, structure is uniform and expression feels honest


Tasting Notes:

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